Published by The Wild Rose Press on December 12, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
With Christmas season in full swing, baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she's got no time to relax, no room for more custom cake orders, and no desire to find love. A failed marriage and a personal tragedy have convinced her she's better off alone. Then a handsome stranger enters her bakery begging for help. Regina can't find it in her heart to refuse him.
Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and puts himself—and his company's reputation—in Regina's capable hands. What he doesn't plan on is falling for a woman with heartbreak in her eyes or dealing with a wise-guy father and a disapproving family.
Can Regina lay her past to rest and trust the man who's awoken her heart?
My father stood at the head of the table, my mother seated next to him. As was also tradition, my father never sat down to eat in his shirt. A bright white wife-beater I knew he got by the gross at a discount dollar store a friend of his owned was his usual table garb. And by got by the gross, I mean it in a literal way. Pop had crates of the shirts stacked in the garage. It didn’t matter that the rest of us were dressed appropriately. Ever since my memory could be counted on, my father sat at a family table sans his outer shirt. Of course if we were at a restaurant or a fancy function like a wedding, he submitted and left it on for decency’s sake. But with family, all thoughts of decency flew out the storm windows. Since packing on a few extra belly pounds over the past couple years, he’d started wearing suspenders to keep his pants up because he hated the confining feeling of a belt.
“Hold hands and bow ya heads,” Pop instructed. We all complied. Pop looked up at the dining room ceiling. As a kid I’d always wondered if he could see God somewhere floating around the crystal chandelier. “Lord,” he said, focusing on the ceiling stucco, “we want to thank you for this food, made by the wife and paid for by my hard work. We want to thank you for our health, the roofs over our heads, the fact we got no bills, ain’t no one doing time right now, and most of all for the love we share as a family. Bless this food, Lord. Amen.”
Recently, I had a reader ask me why I write so many romances where food seems like a major character in the stories.
I’ll admit, that question took me a little aback. First, because I never considered such a thing, and second, because she was correct.
With my WILL COOK FOR LOVE series about the Laine family, food plays a major role because that series is about a family headed by a professional chef-lebrity. Food and recipes had to be incorporated into the storyline to give realism to it. Heck, there were even recipes from Kandy Laine’s cookbooks at the end of every story.
With the San Valentino books, of which CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS is the most recent addition, the traditional Italian cuisine of my characters is vital not only to the storyline, but to the actual characters themselves. The San Valentino’s value family above all else and they typically spend every Sunday eating together, the entire family gathered around the dining room table. It’s a time for the parents to reconnect with their grown children and grandchildren, and for the family to instill their traditions into the upcoming generations.
Even as far back as my MacQuire Women series, the sisters were first rate cooks who learned at their elderly nursemaid’s knee. Serena MacQuire was never as happy in her life as when she had all her children home for dinner.
So, when this reader posed this question to me, I really gave it a great deal of thought and I think I figured out why I subliminally put such a focus on food in each book.
Eating is an intimate act. No, it really is. Think about it. If you are not eating alone, you are typically sitting across or next to someone who is doing the same thing, but also interacting with you. Looking at you. Talking to you. Watching you. And let’s face it: no one looks really sexy eating a ham sandwich despite how writers try their best to make it seem so (!)
Eating fulfills a core need – nutrition. You don’t eat, you die. Simple. So when someone cooks for you they are, in essence, helping to keep you alive.
Eating fulfills an emotional need. Now that may sound a little out there, but let me explain it using an example from my current book. Ursula San Valentino, Sonny’s wife and Regina’s mother, likes nothing more than to cook for all her children and grandchildren. Providing them with a hot, made-from-scratch meal using fresh ingredients is her way of showing how much she loves them. She would quite literally be heart-sick if anyone she loved went hungry. She’s the type of Mama who can feed an army and still have leftovers because she totally believes if all the food is eaten at a meal, you were miserly in the making of it. So, for her, she shows her love – her emotional love – through feeding her family (and anyone else who comes to her table).
When I was a kid my folks worked long hours and didn’t get home many times until late in the evening. If I’d waited for them to eat my own supper, I would have gone hungry more times than not because they typically arrived home after I was in bed. I ate alone 6 out of 7 nights a week and I longed to be able to linger at the table with someone other than myself for company, chatting about everything, sharing my day, asking for guidance with problems. I was never afforded that luxury.
When I began writing about families, that long buried yearning apparently pushed its way out of my memories and onto the page. I really believe there is nothing that holds a family together more than sharing a meal – and their lives – with one another. And I’m talking about the old fashioned sharing of a meal, not the kind we typically see these days where everyone is at the table interacting with their cell phones instead of one another. My family – and my characters – sit together, talk, laugh, verbally spare, even fight, and they do it all together without extraneous interruptions.
And by extraneous interruptions, I mean electronic devices!
So that’s why food plays such a major role in my romance novels. To me, food is way more than just meat and potatoes. It’s a connection. It’s a starting point of a relationship. It’s a touchstone. And it’s a human connection to one another.
That reader was a very smart…cookie(!)
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